Monday, December 21, 2015

Unexpected Gratitude

I do not do one thankful thing on Facebook each day in November. I'm not a big fan of being boxed in and expected to do things <<<~~~ shocking I know. 

Nonetheless I have been overwhelmed lately with things I am thankful for and to even have an awareness of that during this time of year is pretty miraculous for me. To combat my own personal negativity I'm going to share them. 

In no particular order

1) An absolutely unexpected 2015, full of more happy surprises than I could have possibly anticipated.

2) 3 lovely children who I am both enjoying and suffering through imperfectly raising ;) it has been a gift to watch them develop into their individual personalities.

3) An online support network that never leaves me, always has my back and who I'm never afraid to admit any amount of crazy to, #VSP

4)  My love, I never expected you and I'm grateful for you, thanks for holding my hand through the forest.

5) The miraculous way all the details in my life keep working out even when my efforts fall short, even when I can't imagine how they will.  They still do in an unrelenting fashion.

6) A warm house.

7) Food in the fridge and my ability to make it taste good.

8) A six month reprieve from dealing with insanity.

9) A meaningful job where I get to serve others and show people the way out of the darkness.

10) A school committed to not just educating me but developing me as a person.

11) An understanding, gracious supervisor at work.

12) My ability to run 6 miles.

13) Numnuts convincing me to sign up for a Half Marathon.

14) Doing 2 Tough Mudders this year with my tribe #sdlhc

15) Remarkably warm running days this December.

16) Having the ability to teach my children about many, varying things.  

17) Their curiosity that makes them open to learning.

18) My friends, scattered though they may be, and their genuine love for me.

19)  God and his amazing desire to know me, relate to me and help me become a better version of myself.

20) Almost FOUR YEARS of freedom.  Unbelievable.

21) New local friends who have accepted me.  

22) New-to-me cool kids and the opportunity to be a part of their lives.

23) House hunting - that it's even something I can consider being able to do.

24) My thesis, how it excites me, that I have the chance to write it.

25) Graduating this coming year, a staggering grateful notion, that I barely comprehend as possible.

26) The ability to meet with God.

27) Books, all the books....

28) My family

29) Wabi-Sabi, how beautiful the imperfections are in others and how I can begin to embrace them in myself.

30) A car I like.

31) The ability to fill up my car with gas without freaking out every time.

32) A shoe eating, barbie chewing dog that loves my kids unconditionally.

33) Co-workers who don't drive me insane every day.

34) A working vacuum cleaner

35) A calling, I don't completely understand it.  I don't know how it will work itself out in my life but I'm grateful for its steadying, guiding purpose. It gives a mooring to this wild heart. 

I could keep going.  I'm sure I left people or things out.  But the point is not that this is an exhaustive list, the point is that I'm grateful I can even come up with it right now.  I'm grateful that I'm not so self-absorbed that I failed to realize how incredibly blessed I am.  I'm grateful for the openness to see the gift in life.  That is what I will focus on this week.  That is where my mind and heart will be.  Maybe by focusing there I can begin to accept that not only is life overflowing with gift, but I am one too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


The most life-changing concept I have embraced over the last 10 years is the concept of surrender.  It would be cute, pithy, and quite seminarian of me to say that it was God's love, but that isn't true.  God's love is something I have embraced at some level for most of my life.  But the concept of surrender has completely changed the way I live, and move, and breathe in this world in relation to myself and to others.

Surrender, as I understand it and as I have embraced it, is best understood as surrendering to what is.  The release of control.  The cessation of striving against life's current circumstances.  Letting go of the struggle against what is, against Truth.  The abandonment of the idea that I can somehow manipulate life in such a way as to gain the outcome I want; that I can somehow alter what is in such a way that life will benefit me more.

What is can not harm you.  What is simply exists.  It is life's present reality.  It may change tomorrow, next week or next year, but reality is not some personal assault.  It does not carry a judgement with it, life isn't angry at you and therefore it saddled you with your present circumstances.  Life simply is life.  We all have them, messy, chaotic, confusing ones, but circumstances do not judge you for occurring, they simply are.  And yet, when they happen we struggle mightily against them for merely existing.

No, my brother cannot have cancer!  No, my friend cannot be going through a horrific divorce.  No, my child can't have Asperger's.  No, work just can't be this stressful.  No!!  These things have nothing to do with me.  I did not create them nor orchestrate them.  I have no control over them.  They simply are.  And yet by refusing to surrender to the reality of them, I use all of my energy fighting against what is rather than funneling that emotional power, and it IS power, toward life-giving pursuits.

Surrender involves letting go of other people, and their actions.  Releasing the false notion that somehow what someone else does is about me, because of me, or I can effect, or change their actions in some way.  Even my children's actions, attitudes and behaviors are not about me.  Other people are constantly speaking their truth with what they do, there is freedom in letting go of taking all of it so personally, likely they haven't even thought of me.

I'm not much of a planner.  I want to know where I have to be tonight but even considering all I have to do for the next week and who's going to be where stresses me out.  I still forget this about myself and attempt to start planning things.  I do it even though I can feel my heart rate increase as I'm doing it.  The future. Career paths.  The next degree I want to pursue (while still currently pursuing this one).  The cross-country trip I want to take one summer with my kids.  Major life changes.  I forget about the concept of surrender and make pros and cons lists.  I write it all down and then I wonder to myself why in the hell my emotions are freaking the f out 2 days later.  Why do I feel like Chicken Little and why do I need to run around screaming that the sky is falling?!  Each and every time I do this (many, many times, I'm a slow learner) I eventually remember that I have forgotten the life-giving concept of surrender.  I have tried yet again to engineer my life, my future (forgetting that the present is all we have) and sometimes even the lives of others.  God help them.  I can't handle my own shit let alone anyone else's.

Surrender is fundamentally life-altering for me.  It is freedom in a box, wrapped up in the best paper from a store more expensive than Tiffany's and yet you can pick it up anytime you want for free.

I don't need to be in charge, because I'm not.

I don't need to figure it all out, because I can't.

I don't have to do it all, because I'm not responsible for everything.

I can let it go, all of it go.  The future.  My kids' futures.  My career.  My finances.  I can let go of my need to have my hands in everything.  I hate pros and cons lists.  Despise them.  I find them inane.  My dad has drilled into my head their usefulness since I was a small child. (sorry dad)  But every major life change that I have made thus far that has worked out for my benefit was done without such a list.  Maybe that's how I'm wired.  But when the right time, the right person, the right situation presents itself, I know.  It's not tricky, it ain't magic and there's no formula.  I simply know that this is the move that I need to make.

The bitch of that is, is that the knowing, it never comes to me ahead of time.  It only shows up when I need to move, or do something.  There's no three point plan emailed to me by the divine orchestrator upstairs.  Instead when I have surrendered peace comes when it needs to.  There's an opening, and a light, and life in the direction in which I'm headed and I know.  I give up control and look inevitably there's the gift.

It's so completely antithetical to the way it feels when I plan, strategize, run the spreadsheets and pull out the calendar.  All that brings me is chaos.  Surrender brings peace, freedom and gift.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I am co-dependent

There are many dark sides of co-dependency, an unhealthy pattern of relating that is often described as a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s bad behaviors which can include but are not limited to: active addiction, poor mental health where the other party is unwilling to get help, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement (laziness).  However co-dependency, like other addictions can morph, subsequently changing and manifesting in an alternate form and is not always related to perceived weakness, propensity, or inadequacy in the partner.  

Once someone becomes aware of their co-dependent nature and desires to change they can choose another path that appears to be the anti-thesis of co-dependency, excessive self-reliance.  The mantra can shift from, Make sure he/she is always ok to Never need anything from anyone.   What has happened is that the co-dependent has shifted from unhealthy enmeshed attachment with another to detached attachment.  It’s still not healthy but can feel safer.  And really who can blame them?  On the path to emotional health we often swing like a pendulum rigidly from extreme to extreme until we find a safe middle ground, where we are at peace.  

But the dark side of this particular unhealthy attachment form is that the other people with whom the co-dependent is relating can have absolutely no idea there is anything amiss in the relationship.  It is less obvious than the typical form of co-dependency with it’s relentless pursuit of another’s happiness.  Now the co-dependent appears emotionally present, and engaged.  They share bits and pieces about their lives.  They come to functions with other people and laugh and talk.  They give of their time to help those they care about (in a more limited fashion than in their previous state of unhealth), what could possibly be wrong?

Some clues that there is still something amiss often are: 

An apparent lack of genuine vulnerability.  The co-dependent will share about what’s going on in their lives, it can even be messy, but they will always appear to have a measure of control or distance.  You never really see their soft emotional underbelly, where their weakness lies.  Vulnerability is a solid no for them.  

Their ability to ask for help is limited or completely non-existent.  They won’t ask you to help them move something heavy even though they live alone.  They won’t ever ask for financial help, directly or indirectly and would have difficultly benefiting from services provided by outside agencies.  They won’t ask for emotional support during difficult times, but are quick to offer it others.  They are baffled when help is offered and clueless as to how to respond.  They have a tendency to isolate when feeling emotionally vulnerable, so that they can ensure they are only engaging when they are “OK”.  If you would be surprised to ever see them “not okay” you’re probably dealing with an unhealthily attached person, especially if its in a relationship where it is okay for you to be “not okay” with them.  

As far as an unobservant relational participant is concerned everything is fine. They love and care for the co-dependent and the co-dependent loves and cares for them. But the co-dependent is the one doing all the caring while they’re (the other party) relating to a carefully constructed facade. A facade that feels the palatable emotions when other people are around. A facade that easily agrees with other people's preferences. A facade that answers: "it's okay" when a half-hearted apology is offered for what feels like a mortal emotional wound.   This is not an equal relationship.  

Another dark side of co-dependency is that only the exceptionally astute even detect its presence, leaving the self-inflicted sufferer more isolated than before.  Their emotional cries for help deafened by the sound of their own voice assuring everyone else they're fine.  Beyond the emotional facade which is ultimately unable to be related to, this is also still unhealthy because the interior world of the co-dependent is still being driven by the desire to be "acceptable" to others at all times.  They are still editing themselves to make sure they're palatable to those they care for.  

I have walked through this darkness.  I am a co-dependent.  I know this stuff forwards and backwards and upside down because it is my default mode for relating.  I know the isolation a careful facade can offer. I am aware of the risk honesty brings with it. Many find it abrasive and distasteful.  

As I have attempted to free myself from the chains of co-dependency by attempting to be emotionally vulnerable or honest with others, I have been characterized as being harsh, abrasive, difficult to take, extreme, etc.  As I tried to push my pendulum back towards the center balance of health I was met with all kinds of resistance from those who didn’t want to relate with a “real” Shannon.  They liked the co-dependent facade.  I was available before, whenever they were!   I listened well before for as long as they wanted to talk!  I never asked for anything, even when my life was in crisis.  I was the ideal relational participant for a ‘taker’.  After taking enough hits on my way to center vulnerability and honesty stopped feeling safe Pretty Damn Quick.  

And so I pushed that pendulum hard toward isolation and let me be honest it feels safer up there.  But it’s also really freaking lonely.  Life is hard when no one knows all of you.  When no one knows what makes you cry at night or how much you’re really truly afraid of failing.  That underbelly is soft but showing it is strength.  About a year and half ago I finally found my tribe and I began practicing vulnerability with them.  I’m still so far from vulnerable.  But they were kind enough to let me practice with them.  Others are still far more likely to characterize me as unshakeable than they are emotionally vulnerable.  (If one more person tells me how strong I am, I swear evil Shannon will appear).  My go to response is still: no I’m fine.  The mantra in my head still tells me, never needing anything is strength.  But I know now that is a lie, strength comes in vulnerability.  Strength comes in telling someone you passionately love that they hurt you and being terrified but doing it anyway.  Strength comes in not editing your story because you’re afraid it’s too messy, crazy or outlandish for the person you’re talking to, simply owning it because it’s yours and your perspective is valid.  Your life is valid.  There is nothing you have to do to become more acceptable.  Strength comes in not letting those close to you love a facade, in not being perfect.  Strength is speaking your needs knowing that they might not be able to be met.  

Co-dependency is like an addiction, maybe it is one, I don't know.  That question is above my pay grade.  What I do know is that it will change and find another way to present itself but it’s never really gone.  The pendulum stops swinging when we stop running from it.  We own it, don’t make excuses and choose to live in relationship with other people anyway.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

In Surname Only

I am the product of a less than perfect union.  My biological parents were ill-conceived in their matrimony, a high school/early 20s couple that had broken up and gotten back together more times than they could count.  They decided that wedding rings would fix that; it didn't.  No sooner had they married then they found out I was on the way.  I was not good news.  Unplanned and barely surviving as a couple the last thing they needed was the added stressor of a baby; not to mention my mother's pregnancy with me was pretty horrific.  This whirlwind romance was brief and ended rather dramatically when my father walked out of my first birthday party and never came back.  A story I can say I wish I never had been told.  Nothing quite like trying to get over that rejection.

Since then the relationship, if you can even call it that, with my biological father has been strained.  As a young child you could see, even I could see, he tried, but around when I turned 11, he gave up.  A confirmed bachelor, he never remarried.  Got close once, but he broke up with her.  It's a shame really.  If he had ever remarried, I'd like to believe his new wife would have motivated him to maintain a relationship with me, his only child.  But he didn't, and fairytales and unicorns are just figments of my imagination and it's difficult to motivate someone to do something they just don't want to do.  My father is probably somewhere on the Autism spectrum.  It took me until about 4 years ago to realize this.  I'm not sure it would have made a difference knowing his social awkwardness and lack of ability or desire to communicate had nothing to do with me but the damage had been done by then.  20 years of feeling personally rejected is difficult to undo.  He grew up in a time when Autism had no name and if you wanted to isolate yourself from other people that was accepted.  No one asked any questions.

My mom had remarried by the time I was 3.  I grew up calling him Dad.  Because he is my dad.  He's the grandfather to my children now.  He was the one who intimidated my boyfriends when I was a teen and the person who picked me up from band practice.  He saw me off to college and helped me pick up the pieces after my divorce.  My father?  Absent, for every single one of those moments.  I don't say that to invoke pity.  I had someone there for me.  I was cared for, often very well cared for, but I have come to a realization.

I attended a family gathering for my biological father's family last night.  I realized, his inaction has had far wider reaching effects than simply our relationship.  I feel completely disconnected from his entire family.  I don't know them.  I don't particularly like them.  I don't identify with them.  I'm a "Green" in surname only, my familial identity lies in my mother's and step-father's families.  They are the ones who molded me, where I feel like my gifts/hinderances/personality traits come from.  Generationally this effect will continue, my children will identify with the Taylor (my step-father's surname) and Barnes (my mother's) clans, the Greens are unknown to them.

This isn't a diatribe about the effects of divorce.  I would have grown up far worse if my parents had remained married.  Living in the same house as personal rejection would have been far more difficult than having to deal with it on holidays and summer vacations.  Being known is important and there's nothing quite like feeling like a stranger in a room full of people that share half your DNA.

I feel empathy for my Green family really.  They have no idea what to do with me, anymore then I do with them.  They have difficulty expanding their quiet, polite, unassuming personalities to relate with someone like me.  It's not their fault really, they never really had to, why should they now?   Sometimes an epiphany is granted and I realize that it's time to close the door.  Not out of bitterness or pain or regret but because there's nothing there for me anymore and the only thing propping that door open is misguided feelings of guilt.  Closing it is freedom for both them and me.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fear versus Now

Fear.  Abject terror.  Anxiety.

Living in the Now.  What is this moment offering?  What does it require?

Who are my teachers in life right now?  Where is my personal responsibility?

Does everyone experience emotional shitstorms like this?  Is it just me?

Sometimes my brain doesn't make sense.  My body quits wanting to cooperate.  There are too many things to process and it's just safer for everyone if I retreat to my room and take a nap.  Where's the ice cream?  No, I don't need a bowl, the carton will be fine.

All of the above topics are swirling in my over-active brain.  I'm having trouble forming a coherent thought, this will be likely a conglomeration of a bunch of them.

I have known fear, I have known terror.  Abject terror.  I don't throw that phrase out flippantly.  I have seen the intent to do me great bodily harm in the eyes of someone close enough to me to cause it.  Believe me, I was terrified.  The memory of those moments can still cause me to shudder.

Years ago terror made its home way down deep in my soul.  It set up house and although this is a disturbing thought, terror kept me alive.  We were bedfellows, sure he kept me jumping, predicting the next move of my abuser, but prediction was my oxygen and I didn't dare live without it.  Facing terror is not something I think is common in our society but perhaps it's my own ego talking, elevating my experiences in life as more dramatic or difficult than yours.

I have a bumper sticker on my car now.  I put it there to remind me of something.  It is the first time in my 16 years of car ownership that a sticker has ever graced the presence of one of my vehicles.  It reads: "I overcome all fears."  It's a reference to the Tough Mudders I have completed.   But those accomplishments were irrelevant when I chose to permanently mark my vehicle in that way.  It was a reminder, that I had in fact overcome all of my fears.   We were no longer housemates, bedfellows.  I had kicked him out and I was still here living and breathing oxygen.  It was a miraculous eviction.  

I have, to a great extent, overcome the fear of death.  It's not an idea I relish given my small children at home and my concern for their future, however I have released the idea that I will have any control over when or how that happens.  Other victims of domestic violence carry that fear with them into their future.  Even after freedom from their abuser, they continue to walk around worried at any moment someone will intend to cause them harm and they will die.  I did not want that path, that was not for me.  If I survived hell, I intended to live out the rest of my days in peace and with joy, not looking over my shoulder wondering what would happen if?  

I recently finished a book by Eckhart Tolle entitled The Power of Now in it he says, "ultimately all fear is the ego's fear of death, of annihilation."  I live with an identified faith that says death is a fallacy and annihilation is impossible for me, so to live in fear of it is to deny the very faith I profess. 

That doesn't mean that there are not some very real things that can cause us harm.  One of the fears that still makes its home way down deep in my psyche from time to time is the fear of financial ruin.  I'm a single mother on the path toward a graduate degree, without a clear job offer at the end of this.  Fear relishes throwing all of that in my face.  Reminding me of my inadequacies.  Questioning my motives.  Weighing me and finding me wanting.   But when I quiet the noise and sit still before God, I know that those are all lies.  I know that the truth of this life I have chosen is that I'm following God through it.  And if I want to do that I must abandon security and give my fears away.

I chose to decide that I am capable of facing what is coming in this life and where I am lacking God will fill in the void.  Otherwise I would not be living, I would simply survive moment by ever dreadful moment.  We all know people like that.  Gloom and doomers.  Naysayers, who are consumed by their anxieties.  It is exhausting to be around but it is also terribly sad.  What a waste of each moment, which becomes a waste of an entire life.

Which is why I have another sticker on my car reminding me: don't feed the fears. 

Because sometimes we choose to feed these fears within us.  It's normal to worry and have concerns about life, but they can take on a life of their own. Those thoughts can become all-consuming and steal the very life force within us. I try to remember that this is a self-fulling prophecy. If I allow these thoughts to take over then they will drive all other thoughts away. They will become the erratic heartbeat keeping me up at night. Which will likely lead to whatever I'm dreading coming to fruition. 

Or maybe there's another path? Another way?  One that doesn't lead to my destruction. Maybe that path is even the simpler one? 

I have noticed a change in myself and my way of processing as I have aged/mellowed/done a shit ton of therapy and personal growth work.  I am more able to let things go.  It's not that I don't experience those moments when the sky is literally falling and everything is going to blow the hell up and life is horrible, I absolutely still do.  Ask my friends.  I have been there recently, like this week.  But I am now more able to walk through those moments and then choose to stop living there in the middle of that shit storm.  Because I have realized that I have a choice.  And living there is madness.  I in no way have the ability to predict the future.  I in no way can control another person's actions or emotions, not even my own children's.  I cannot possibly venture a guess at the course tomorrow will take.  So choosing to believe that the sky is actually literally going to fall, leaves me looking rather foolish. 

I have learned that no matter how dark I think the night is, it usually gets 4 to 5 shades darker before relief comes through.  I have learned that expecting to completely fix all of life's problems in a day is complete madness.   While we'd all love to wake up in the morning having everything that was haunting us gone; that's not how things actually work.  Therefore, it is equally mad to do nothing and expect things to change in the manner you would prefer them to.  I can not do everything today but neither does that excuse me from doing nothing today.

That is how people get fit, one thing at a time, every day.  That is how people become experts in their field, learning one thing at a time, everyday.  That is how every person you know who has something colossally difficult has done it, one thing at a time, everyday. 

I have friends who see me as fearless. They look at my life and tell me I must be to overcome what I have. They're wrong. I love them but they don't know. I'm not fearless. I do not...

Laugh without fear at the future. 

I have simply learned that the future is not where the battle of defeating fear is waged. It is waged in the only moment we ever have, Now.  I am here, living and breathing and rejoicing at the many gifts my life has offered me now.  To live in fear, anxiety or terror now would be to squander all of those gifts.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

When Following God Feels Like You're Going Exactly the Wrong Way

There are many who live and breathe and move among us that give no thought to a Higher Power.  They do not consider a destiny beyond the one they are creating for themselves.  Or the one they feel is manufactured by life's unfortunate or fortunate circumstances.  They blithely accept what is as what is.  However, if you don't embrace that viewpoint you are one of those who believe there is something beyond us, God, a Higher Power, what have you.  Whether you realize it or not you have already developed a way of interacting with that Being.  A relationship, if I may.  You may have decided that He or She is uninvolved in your individual life, but has some wisdom to impart to you.  You may scream at the heavens demanding answers for every single last one of life's plaguing questions.  You may pray 3 times a day, 50 or none in a year.  You worship at church, in nature or in a mosque.  Regardless, you have a way of interacting with God, even if you have never examined the fruit those interactions produce, or perhaps don't.  

When we find ourselves in this human-God relationship we often discover that there is something we want from this situation.  If we're going to have a relationship with a being that is beyond our capabilities in strength, knowledge, power, who isn't even limited by time; we want to get something out of that relationship.  That's only fair right?  I mean, we're measly humans who are limited by nearly every damn thing possible.  It'd be nice to be thrown a bone every once and a while by this Being in the Sky.  Would it really kill Him/Her/Our Higher Power to make the path just a smidge easier?  Couldn't She spare some cash when we need it?  Or that acceptance letter to the right school, He could have made that happen, right?  Otherwise, where's this supposed power He has?  And after all if I'm going take my time interacting and having a relationship with this Powerful Being, who supposedly loves and cares about me, wouldn't my Higher Power want to make my life a little easier?

Except that's not exactly how things work. 

There are many times when faithful people have followed hard paths of trying to live out a life they wholeheartedly believe God called them to, and everything has blown the hell up, right in their faces.  More often than not the path of seeking God does not actually make life any easier, we don't get less trouble and difficulty, we get more.  Why?!  This doesn't make any sense to me!  Why would the God-following path be harder?  Why would there be more pain, or trials or illness?  Why do we hurt more?  There are cavalier phrases I could give you about iron sharpening iron, and refining fires.  I won't, they do little for those actually thinking through these things intentionally.  

What I do know is this: often following God feels like you are going exactly the wrong way.  The path contains no earthly, logical sense.  It will not fit in the places in your brain it needs to go.  It will not answer the questions you demand to have answered.  It will not stand up to the battery of the questions at Family Dinners from your grandmother, because she will want to know why you don't have a better plan.  Following God rarely is logical.  Following God is never easy.  It will leave you confused and questioning.  I could tell you there's a reward at the end of all of it, but I'm still waiting on mine.  I hesitate to give other people promises on which I can't deliver.  

We can not hope to go through this life without mishaps.  Sometime around mid-childhood we discover that there is no getting through this adventure unscathed.  We will be marked by misfortune or pain or loss.  We will fail.  We will experience injustice.  To our pre-pubescent selves this all seems terribly unfair.  Hopefully, we grow out of wallowing in that murky self-pity and come to accept life as it is with some measure of peace.  Save the ones among us determined to remain solidly in the victim role until their last breath is drawn.  

The path in my own life that I have walked thus far makes no sense to me.  Absolutely none.  Because if I had it in my power to do anything in the universe I wouldn't have set me here.  I would have smoothed the road a bit.  I would have had more stuff go in my favor and spared my children some hurt and pain, a lot of hurt and pain.  I would have sheltered more and held the enemy back with a firmer hand.  I am not in charge and if I was I would have done it differently.  

Lately quiet moments have been haunting me, an accusing voice has been plaguing me, telling me that somehow I messed up.  Somehow I was stupid or an idiot.  The single word idiot has been on repeat in my head.  Telling me if I could have just foreseen and been smarter I would have made better choices and now life wouldn't look like this.  But I wasn't and it's my fault.  And everything my family's facing now is my fault because I was dumb.  

Today a different voice spoke up (yes, I sound schizophrenic now) and said, "Hold on a freaking minute here.  You are not an idiot.  You have done nothing wrong.  You have tried hard to protect your family.   You have worked hard to make sure they are safe and secure.  You are creating a future for yourself and your children.  You are not at fault.  How could you have known this?  What transcendent power do you possess that would have gifted you with this knowledge?  Have you mistaken yourself for God?"  

And that voice was right.  I could not have seen this in my path, not a year ago, 5 years ago or 12 years ago.  I'm not omniscient.  I desperately wish I was and that God, who is would have given me more of a head's up.  But following God often feels like I'm going exactly the wrong way.  The right way in my head is toward safety and security.  Toward the white picket fence and the 401-k.  Picket fences disguise themselves as prisons.  And I have never been one to be fenced in.  Following hard after God has always meant letting go of my personal need for security and being placed in an adventure where I am not the captain.  I dislike it some days.  It's uncomfortable and terrifying.  I want control.  I abhor having to trust another, even the Almighty.  But that is what is best for me and so this is the path I will stay on.  

One blind faithful step after another.   

Monday, June 29, 2015

Deafening Silence

Can you hear the silence?

I can and it's been deafening.  I, for one, have been grateful for that.  Since SCOTUS was passed, decided on, whatever, last week, I have noticed very little what some would label hate, in my newsfeed.  I breathed a sigh of relief as my family members and friends, who I know don't agree with gay marriage, chose to keep their mouths shut and their fingers stilled.

I come from, what I would freely label as a conservative Christian family, notice I did not say fundamentalist, no that label wouldn't describe us.  (This is how we were raised, not what all of us believe now)  There are a lot of us, 60+ people on just my mother's side.  They could make a lot of noise if they wanted to.  I also attend an Evangelical Seminary, again not fundamentalist but yes, conservative would be an apropos description.  So I am well aware that within my circle there are many people who disagree with gay marriage.  Yet through all of this, they have remained quiet.

Which got me to wondering why?  If I read what some of my proudly SCOTUS supporting friends are saying I would be led to believe that all of my friends and family who still hold conservative Christian values are walking around spewing hate.  But they're not, they're not saying anything at all.  It is as if they now have adopted the opinion that their voices are irrelevant, because they have become counter-cultural.   It is wiser to be silent than to speak.  I think the reasons for this collective silence is fear.  They are afraid to say anything disagreeing with what appears to be majority public opinion, less they be labeled a bigot or a freak and be bullied into adopting a belief they don't really agree with.  I'm sure many of my gay friends can identify with that emotion, with that experience.  I have been afraid to speak my mind and my opinion isn't even dissenting, it's just of the food for thought variety.

But just like I don't want my gay friends to have to live in fear, I will choose not to do so either.  I have an opinion and some thoughts on this issue and while they may differ from yours I hope you can hear me out as respectfully and thoughtfully as I will endeavor to hear you.

Let me start by saying, I am not against adult men and women having the legal right to marry any other adult man or woman they choose.  As I see it, this is a legal issue and it has very little to do with my faith.  I base this on my interpretation of Jesus' interactions with his government while he was here on the planet.  As I see it, he had very little to do with the government except to say "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and give back to God what is God's (Mark 12:17 NLT)."  I tend to take the same approach.  I don't believe that the government is my agent of change, nor do I believe it is a tool I will use to further the cause of faith nor is it something I will use in an attempt to benefit humanity.  It is simply there, I submit to its authority, am grateful for its protection but the government can in no way hinder my ability to live out my faith, so whether it makes various types marriages legal or not is irrelevant except in the way that law affects those I love and care about.

I don't believe the often quoted adage, "God will turn his back on this nation."  I don't believe that God is in the business of backing nations unlike Islamic extremists who seem to believe that and attempt to achieve acceptance from Allah by beheading those who don't covert, or throwing homosexuals off buildings.  I therefore believe it's not really possible for God to turn his back on a nation, this one or any other.  As I understand God, he's in the people business, nations are sort of irrelevant in his book.  Unless we're talking the Old Testament nation of Israel, which requires a whole other discussion not best served in this brief dialogue.

I also don't agree with the even more often quoted "we were founded on Christian ideals."  I'm no history expert but what I have read leads me to the conclusion that while the majority (not all) of our founding fathers (and mothers, let's assume they should get a mention) were Christians, what they wanted to start here was a nation that did two main things: freed them from religious persecution and gave them an opportunity to speak into their government.  Which is pretty similar to what we have now.  We can worship whoever, however, whenever we choose and we vote people who we believe will speak best for us into offices in our government in hopes that they will represent our voice.  

That is why SCOTUS happened to begin with.  The people demanded it.  I know the vote was a close one, but I have felt that the legalization of gay marriage was an inevitability in our country for quite some time.  It was desired by a large segment of our population and because of that it was going to happen.  Government for the people, by the people - I read that somewhere.  From what I understand, in a very limited capacity, the way in which SCOTUS passed has caused some consternation because it wasn't done in the most legally credible fashion.  I can see that, when I read it, my first thought was: state's rights, what about those?  The Supreme Court just totally trampled those.  However, again, the people demanded this and it was going to happen, one way or the other.  I will leave that debate to those who have law degrees and understand politics in a way I do not.  What I do hope for is that those who championed this cause, who do understand politics and the judicial structure, would step back and consider the how behind this coming into law and perhaps encourage a more constitutionally respectful approach for laws to be put into place in our future and now.  Because if we go around undermining the constitution now, there will be no stopping it later.

However that is not my bailiwick and certainly not my area of expertise. In our country the legal process of getting married does several things for us: gives us the ability to insure our partners, it helps with end of life issues such as wills, it ensures your spouse can be there in the ER, or ICU with you and it tells the doctors and nurses who is allowed to make decisions for you when you're unable to, it gives you some tax sheltering and it protects your assets in divorce supposedly, like it or not legal marriage has a lot to do with divorce in our country.  This is why the #lovewins seems like such a misnomer to many because our government was not saying before SCOTUS that you couldn't love whomever you chose.  What won with SCOTUS was legal protection, but #legalprotectionforgaycoupleswins doesn't have the same ring to it.

 What I have long deliberated as this issue has faced our country is the separation of Church and State.   But what many have failed to consider as they have asked the conservative Christian community to sit down and shut up about gay marriage is that the Church and State are completely married to one another in this issue.  Who MARRIES the majority of people in our country???  Pastors, Priests, Ministers, Rabbis, in short: our faith leaders.  We can wax poetically all we want about how this isn't a moral issue that other people shouldn't be able to legislate morality for us but the bottom line is, who can marry who has been legislated morally for us since the beginning of our nation.  Because our legal marriages have occurred in our churches and the churches, mosques and synagogues had an opinion on what marriage looked like.  We can say they're separate, but they never have been.  Yes, judges can marry us, but very few people actually go that route.

So perhaps what this discussion needs is some understanding behind why this issue is so upsetting to  many members of our community now.  This issue doesn't feel separate for them and in actuality, it's not.  If we want legal marriage to have nothing to do with morality, then we need to take the responsibility for legally marrying people out of our faith communities.  As long as our pastors are the ones performing the marriages, gay marriage will continue to be a moral issue.  How could it not be?  If Church and State are really separate then must they not be separate in this incredibly divisive issue?  Let's not pretend that they are and then have all of the parties involved in bed together.  Gay marriage has plagued every denomination in our nation for the last 20 years, they have all had to decide, have decided already (for or against) or are still debating their position on gay marriage.  Churches have split, people have lost their ordination, lots of feelings have been hurt, not to mention individuals' relationships with God have suffered.  But partly churches have been forced to debate this because our pastors are the ones marrying our people.

In my opinion, these two things should be distinctly separate the Church and faith communities over here and the legal process of marriage over there.  Perhaps because I love peace and I do believe that this would bring some peace to this issue.  Perhaps because I'm in seminary and I have actually had to think about whether or not I would marry a gay couple and what denominations do that and what don't and if I should choose a denomination based upon that factor.  I haven't had the luxury of just saying, whatever other people do over there doesn't effect me, because ultimately I may be put in a situation where I am told I can't marry this type of couple or where I am told I must marry this type of couple.  Perhaps I believe this is a solution because I really love people and think they should legally be able to marry who they want and no one else's belief system should determine that.  After all, I'm a divorced woman, there are plenty of belief systems that would love to tell me that I should not be able to get remarried.  Isn't that exactly what freedom from religious persecution is?  The inability of the government to inflict its chosen religious position on its people?  I don't know.  I certainly don't have all the answers.  I just would like us to stop pretending that suddenly with the passage of SCOTUS we now have all of them, because we don't.  There are many more questions now.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A letter to my girl

An open letter to my daughter.

Hello beautiful one.  

Good morning baby.  How are you?  I have been thinking a lot about you lately.  You turned 5 in March and I cannot imagine my baby being five. Still, 2.5 months later it's a head trip.  For a long time I wondered if you'd have a sister to navigate some of the trickier parts of womanhood with, but Mommy is not producing anymore siblings for you, (sorry, really I'm not at all sorry) so unless you gain a step-sister; I think you're probably SOL.   I love my little tribe of three and how you function as a unit.  (Although the bickering, for real, please knock it off.)  By the way, you're rocking (exploiting) the "baby of the family" position just fine.  That being said if you're not going to have a sister to figure out some of these things with so I'm going to make sure you know some things about how to be a woman in this world. 

I have a few more years before you hate me for saying this, so I'm going to get it in while I still can.  You are a mini-me, little lady.  You are made of the same resilient stuff I am.  The kind of fire and heat that doesn't burn out over time but instead has an unlimited fuel source that comes from within.  Baby girl, it's beautiful thing honey.  Not everyone will get you as you grow up.  There are those that will tell you that you're too intense.  Don't listen to them sweetheart.  Your fire scares them and makes them jealous.  They want to tame it or take it.  They wish they had the strength to be as undefeatable as you are.  They wish they could figure out how you speak your truth without appearing to fear the consequences.  They wish they knew where that passion within you came from, the passion that drives you to excel at whatever you put your mind to.  That nature of yours that will cause you to champion the cause of the underdog or never know grades less than a 4.0 or swim faster and run farther than the boys.  I'm not sure what you will set your mind to do, but it will be remarkable - it will intimidate some.  They will try to kill it.  Don't let them kill it.  It's beauty.  It's rare.  It's gold in a world that's made up of dark, ashy coal.  

Perhaps, it is your Irish stock that makes you this way, or that one strawberry-blonde lock that runs through your brunette hair that signifies the fire contained within, but it is there.  I see it burn and flash in those eyes every time you tell me "no."  I see it burn brightly when your brothers attempt to tell you that they're in charge.  It'll burn even more intensely when some idiot tells you later in life that women need to submit.  I have pity for him in advance. Try not to kill him with that icy glare you have, or take too much pleasure in highlighting his idiocy publicly.  

I had to learn not to do that, little one, not to use my intellect as a weapon.  Or my body, or my fire.  You will need to learn those things as well.  It can be tempting sweetheart, 2015 or 1985 or 2045; it will always feel like as a woman we have less power in this world.  It's tempting to exploit the power we do have.  We are born with the innate knowledge of how to do that.  Little lady, please let me caution you not to.  Although bringing a man to his knees with your glance and walk can be fun, it's not a sport and it is beneath you.  

There are other things that you must learn.  You have a sixth sense about you, we all do.  It's a blessing and I want you to promise me.  I want you to swear that you will not ignore it.  Ever.  If the back of your spine tingles or you get covered in goosebumps, or what feels like an icy breeze washes over you in the heat of July.  Eowyn promise me you'll get the hell out of wherever you are.  You can call me, at any time, any hour no matter where you are.  I won't ask any questions.  I won't care how you're dressed.  Or where you are.  I will come for you.  Let me tell you about this cruel harsh world we live in.  Ignoring your sixth sense can be detrimental, you could end up compromising your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.  I don't want that for you.  Please take my word and just trust me on this.  Your momma has lived through making this mistake.  It took a very long time to heal from the errors in my judgement.  

There's another lesson you need to learn.  Although I would love to spare you the actual life experience of figuring this out, chances are you're not going to take my word for it and you're going to insist that you know better than me.  Nonetheless, let me caution you against listening to the charming, smooth talking male that pursues you.  "His words are so sweet, he seems so genuine.  Nevermind that he says he's going to do things and doesn't followthrough", you will tell me.  "He meant to and it's the thought that counts, Momma."  Ummm, no baby girl, it is most certainly not.  When you enter this minefield called dating, when you start to desire that life-long love that makes your heart flutter.  Remember ONE THING, people tell you who they are all the time... with their ACTIONS.  Sure you can feel the butterflies, and rainbows, the sparks when someone touches you.  But girl, listen up, watch him!  Watch what he does.  How does he treat those he says he cares about.  Does he show up when he said he would?  Is he habitually late?  Does he only text or call you only when it's convenient for him?  Girlfriend, you are not an afterthought.  And I promise you if you allow yourself to be treated that way, you will piss your momma off.  You should be a top priority in any man's life if you're going to allow him to inhabit yours.  The second you sense that you have slipped off his priority list, stop making excuses and insist on better for yourself.  You are your own champion.  You are the one who has to use your voice to say what you won't tolerate and how you expect to be treated.  Don't leave anyone guessing, speak your truth.  

What most women forget is that we make the rules.  This isn't a 'women are better than men' thing.  That doesn't have a damn thing to do with it.  This is a fact.  A good man wants to be with you.  He expects you to tell him how he can make that happen regularly, if you don't tell him what's required he will assume that there are no rules.  He will believe that he can do whatever he wants and you'll just be there, accessible, available anytime it's convenient for him.  Do not do that.  The men worthy of your time will listen to what you need from them in order to let them inhabit your presence regularly.  If they want to negotiate your boundaries or expectations - adios.  No thanks.  Wait for the one who doesn't do that to you.  The one who treasures you.  The one who looks at you like you have hung the stars in the sky.  The man who listens and respects what you have to say.  I'm not sure what your expectations will be, but you should have some and they should not involve you dropping everything and running to some guy just because he decided he wants to see you now.  

You will not be one of many, no way.  I once had a boyfriend who used to refer to me as his Number 1.  He did this because when we started dating he was still seeing other people but I was his favorite.  No way, I am not one of many and neither will you be, whether you're in the number 1 spot or not.  If he isn't sure he wants to give up the others to be with you now, he won't give up the others down the road either.  Remember you make the rules.  

Unfortunately chica you will be catcalled, men will say hideous, vile things to you, in public, online, privately.  They will probably explicitly tell you what they want to do to you.  This is the one exception when you may absolutely publicly humiliate them.  Go for it.  Don't ever let anyone speak to you in a manner which you find repulsive.  Men can be pigs.  Don't keep your mouth shut and tolerate it.  If you need some help with phrases on how to achieve the desired reaction I have a whole closet full.  You set the rules in how you will be treated.  You do not have to put up with this just because that's the way men are.  Nope.  You sure don't.

Baby, there are 1000 different ways to have a romantic relationship with another person.  Hopefully you find one eventually that is worthy of your time, your heart and your affection.  But before you set off hunting to find that in this world make it your agenda to see this world.  To do something.  To become a person you respect.  Before a man, become the Eowyn you want to be.  That way, when it's time to join forces with someone else you won't find your identity meshing with his.  You'll know exactly who you are and the two of you will be even stronger together.    

I believe in you.  I'm already blessed to call you mine.  None of this is easy, but it all becomes easier by using our brains and having standards.  You got this.

I love you girly,

Your momma.

The previous letter to my sons can be found here

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Only the Lonely

Repost from a few years ago...

What's your experience with loneliness?  Do you feel it a lot?  How do you cope with it when you do?  Are you married and lonely?   Or single and thinking marriage will be the panacea to your loneliness?  Do you surround yourself with friends or pets or children?  Do you try to connect a lot with others or God?

I have been lonely or felt isolated regularly in life.  I've felt it a lot this week.  In a discussion with a friend about this she said to me I think that loneliness is part of the human condition.  And I thought: she's brilliant, of course it is.  We are isolated or alone in our hearts and minds and experiences because we are the only one experiencing exactly that at that moment.  I am the only one I know currently divorcing someone like my ex.  My friend is the only one I know who feels this holy discontent because she's living somewhere that's miserable and feels like she might be called to be doing something bigger, but can't figure out how to put that into action.  Another friend is the only one I know with five kids, running a successful business, homeschooling and has to stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning regularly to get things done.  Another friend woke up to the reality that her two year old has a tumor this week and has no idea what that means yet.   Then there are the myriad of other friends who just hate their job, are working hard to make ends meet with no success, can't find the answers they want from God, can't find a friend or just got dumped.  

This is not to say that everyone's life sucks because there is much to find pleasure in.  But if we don't actually talk about how we are feeling our hearts get stuck on repeat and it's difficult to move on and grow.  We need to face our loneliness or isolation and figure out what it's about.  Because even if our network of friends and family isn't experiencing our exact circumstance right now they can still be here for us.  And God is still here for us.

I have felt this.  I have sat with my friend Karen or Naomi and vented and talked and cried and they have done the same.  We've eaten chocolate and bitched about men and life and money and children being difficult.  But when they leave there it is again.... loneliness.  And as my friend Deb pointed out, I think this part of us is here to stay.

There is a purpose to our feeling this way.  And the purpose is to push us back to God.  Because He is the one who is ever communing with us.  He will be there when we've woken up for the 5th time last night.  And for that moment right after your friends walk out the door.  And for me, I feel like God understands no matter what I'm going through.  He meets me inside of my soul and there are no obstacles that I have not created for him having a complete understanding of my pain, or confusion or doubt.  He can never not understand what it's like to be poor, attacked by a worthy adversary or stay up all hours of the night doing what needs to be done.  And even if Jesus didn't have my exact experience while walking around on this planet; God is still our creator and so he understands us because he made us.

He wants to meet us in our pain.  He also wants to meet us in our pleasure.  He did after all create the most pleasurable experiences we can have on this planet. We should not be afraid of these moments on both sides of the mountain.  They both have a purpose in our life.

If I can get outside of myself long enough to think, I know exactly what can happen.  I can center my spirit, my breath, my being on God and I will feel Him meet me there.  There will be comfort and communion and peace.  This practice is more like meditation for me and less like traditional prayer.  I'm not speaking many or any words; it is a purifying of focus.  I have learned how to do that through my study of yoga: how to meditate and center.  Sometimes laying down and feeling the floor has given me an awareness of what is going on internally for me.  Then I can play the internal filing cabinet game: this goes here, this goes here, I need to do deal with this now (rarely the case) or this just needs to be thrown out (happens a lot).

After I've become present and accepted the mess of files lying on the floor, I can enjoy the feeling of the floor, the coolness of my breath and the warmth of God within my soul.  But as long as I'm hyper-focused on the feelings and the doings of life I forget about my being.  There's a lot for me to do in life.  There's a lot of responsibilities that I have.  And when I get stuck in these cycles of rinse, wash, dry, repeat, I get lonely.  I get overwhelmed and I forget.  I forget that I am a human BEING.  God has called me to do one thing on this earth and that is to love.  Loving is part and particle of being.  The more I produce the less I am.  My soul shrinks as my productivity increases.  And I get lonely, but I am lonely for me.  I have stopped communing with myself.

Note to all of us: enjoy your own company.  I like myself.  I like what I have learned about who I am.  I like that I'm a walking paradox, who loves Jesus, swears like a sailor and can sew a quilt.  If you're feeling lonely I challenge you to get to know yourself better.  Maybe the panacea for that ache is right in the middle of your heart, where God and you can commune together.  Communion isn't some funky Christian word that means bread, blood, wine and bones.  It's about being present.  Being present with God and with each other.  Sharing a meal and a life.  I encourage you to make sure you are living yours.  Living and not just surviving.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Want It All

I started this post 2 months ago, but it felt disingenuous to not post it now.  Keep that in mind when you read the tenses here.

I want it all.  Or nothing.  This isn't a new theme in my life, since I was a young girl I was an "all in" kind of person.  I want to jump out of airplanes.  I want to passionately love God and my children and what I do for a living.  I want to run through fire or electricity or long distances when I'm too old to possibly do something for the first time.  Screw that, I'm never going to be too old to live passionately in the direction of my choosing.  You may remember about 6 months ago I decided I was quitting dating.  I had given up on love or at least I had given up on intentionally trying to find it.  As with most things for me this is a journey and I have reached a place of tenuous peace now.  I don't feel like I have any more answers.  I don't necessarily have more hope but I have learned a few more things.  I cannot live dispassionately in that direction of my life.  It is far better for me not to have romance than it is to tolerate mediocrity.  

I have not been in a relationship, prior to now, where I didn't often go to bed at night wondering how the other person felt about me.  I have shed tears, I have been nauseous, I have lost sleep, all while still in a relationship.  I decided that it was a terrible way to live my life.  I was convinced that I had a good life.  I enjoy my children, I enjoy writing, I enjoy my gym time and school.   There is absolutely no need to give space to something that kept me up at night worrying.  Doubt is a cancer, it will eat away all of the happiness from your life.  It will steal things it has no business owning.

After all, how can I live passionately in all of the other directions of my life and partner with someone who didn't live passionately in the direction of me?  Of course that would make me worry, of course that would keep me up at night, of course I would be confused.  Because that person did not live from the same center as I did.  And that was not something I could understand.  I simply don't get people who are lazy in love or any aspect of life that they profess to care about.  People who just expect the other person to know how they feel about them, what the hell is that?  I don't do that with my friends, my children, or my family.  I don't live from a laissez faire perspective.  I don't understand those who do.  Some people will object saying things like: that's just the way men are.  Men tell you once and expect you to just know it.  But no, I have enough male friends to know they also know what it's like to go to bed filled with doubts about where they stand with their partners.  I just couldn't do it anymore.  

So I quit.  I have dated very minimally since last September.  My online dating profiles have either been inactive or ignored almost categorically.  If I found my interest piqued I didn't let it consume me in the hunt/hope that I would finally find the one.  I let things happen and when I did decide to give someone a date I found myself relatively calm (read here: completely detached) about what the outcome would be.  No free falling, no feeling like I was constantly hanging on the edge of a cliff, hoping, wondering, praying that love would finally find me.  Mostly because I didn't believe I would find it but also because I don't believe you can actively create a romantic relationship in your life.  There's nothing you can do to make that happen.  

A friend and I had a conversation not long ago; he believes in the Law of Attraction.  He was wondering if I believed that you could set goals in the romance area of your life.  "After all", he said, "we set goals for our physical life, for our careers or schooling or parenting, why can't we set goals romantically?"  Which led to a discussion about free will.  I hold the position that even if we meet someone that we could be happy with forever (that word still gives me heart palpitations), that we love and care for and who loves us back, they are a free person with their own motivations.  They could choose for a variety of reasons (usually not fully known to us) to not embrace that love/us and move on.  

I believed, two months ago when I wrote this and still now even though my life has dramatically changed in this area, that there was nothing I could do to create this for myself.  I didn't necessarily want God to get all up and involved in my love life, frankly, that thought freaked me out.  But I also didn't believe rapid-fire dating was going to lead me to love, nor was intentionally going out and meeting new people with my friends or even church hopping as some have suggested to me (******eye roll******).  I believed all that would aid me in the area of romance was a spiritual openness: open hands and heart toward future possibilities without the need to be in charge of those possibilities.  That meant putting down the checklists, ignoring my preconceived ideas about who would be right for me and what he would look like and then, perhaps the most important part: getting on with living my life!  I told myself: just live life Shannon, do your thing and if he wants to show up and God (yes I let God in this far) wants him to show up he will.  But certainly don't stress about it.  That's just another thing to keep you up at night.  

I was trying to choose to believe love would find me.  Mostly while busying myself with school, kids and training.  But the ache for it, that had stilled and it was replaced with faith, a faith that I was not in charge.  And that was a huge relief.

I knew that I didn't have to settle anymore.  No, I knew more than that, I knew settling would be detrimental to my life happiness.  I was okay with my life solo.  I had a good one.  Of course it would be enriched by the presence of another person.  But only if that person got me, valued me, lived as passionately in the direction of me as I did in life and toward them.  I finally knew that it was okay to want the whole thing, butterflies and rainbows, electricity and the silent knowing.  I knew it was okay to abhor small talk and to insist on being able to flirt with that person, because it was okay to need what I needed in love and in life.  Because a person who can't banter, will bore me.  Why did I think it wasn't okay to own that? 
I wasn't sure I would find someone who would get me on a soul level.  I wasn't sure my out of the box theology would find itself being understood by another soul, but I wasn't going to allow someone in my heart who I had to section off parts of me from to protect from criticism.  I had done that before and it sucked.  I refuse to do it again.  I am enough, just as I am.  I don't want to be tamed.  I will not be silenced.  What's the point of editing myself?  

I want to be known like this, fears and all.

Maybe when I wrote this two months ago I didn't believe this would happen for me.  I'm quite sure I didn't.  Maybe when I wrote this, cynical Shannon was still in full effect.  Maybe if I'm transparent and honest I still believe love will leave, fade or disappear.  I perhaps still feel unworthy of happiness.  But I know that settling is never worth it.  Being known completely is always worth it.  And I could never have created what I am experiencing now.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Month of May

The last week or two in May, the ones right before my birthday are hard every year.  My mom and dad are cranky, and distant.  My older sister withdraws further.  I practice a level of introversion on reserved for the acutely painful parts of life.   I pretty much decide most of humanity is useless and not worth my time.  All right before I'm supposed to flip a switch and celebrate, yay!  I'm older, lets have cake and presents and party.  Except I don't want to, the older I get the less I want to.  Some people dread their birthdays because it means they're aging, some because it's so close to Christmas that no one wants to celebrate or has any financial resources with which to do so.  I dread my birthday because it's a constant, yearly reminder of my missing sister.

I want to do fun things.  Months in advance this year I started talking with friends about planning something.  I was full of ideas, let's go to a concert or the beach, or dancing or have a game night.  We have to do something, I'm going to be 35!  Oh my god, 35, it's a big freaking deal.  I'm officially old.  I can't do nothing, I'll be even more depressed.  But the days passed and the birthday looms like a reminder, you're old, you don't want to celebrate and you miss your sister.  This year is particularly difficult.

Eowyn is five.  The age my sister was when she died 24 years ago.  I can't see Blair in Eowyn.  I want to; I wish I could but Eowyn's hair is too dark and straight and her body style is too different.  Her streak of sass, they share that.

Every day with my daughter now feels like a betrayal.  Every day feels like a sorrow, a question.  A gift that I pay for.  Why God, couldn't you have given my parents the gift of more time?  They are longing for what might have been.

I feel as though I missed the gift of a sister who was my best friend.  I feel as though I missed the late night teenage pillow talks about boys.  I missed out on the wars over clothing.  I missed out on what it would have been like to watch her have babies; seeing her belly grow.  Having her be there for all of that for me.

Of course, of course, maybe we would have hated each other.  Or lived 1000 miles apart or our lives could've take different paths, but it feels like the taste of a promise and then it was snatched from my hands, no, my heart.

Isn't that what death always does?

It shows us what we could have and takes it before we're ready.  I remember very little from Blair's years on this planet.  I can't conjure her laugh in my brain anymore.  I could for a while and then lost it along the way.  I can still see her expression of happiness and  I remember the feeling of two sisters falling asleep holding hands.  But even what I did have with her has largely vanished from my memory with the passage of time.  Even my brain betrays me in this.

There are no platitudes regarding the goodness of God that will comfort.  There is no gift in trite pity-filled phrases about sovereignty or the need for Blair to be with God.  Those just sew seeds of bitterness.  Time doesn't actually heal.  The great falsity.  It changes the tenor of the emotions, it does not heal them, they don't cease, they alter slightly.

The only thing to do now is to allow myself to feel.  To honor the place of pain, while enjoying the memories.  To flip through photo albums and consider how Blair resembles this cousin or sibling.  To honor my parents who's pain could not possibly end, which I shudder to grasp in its intensity.  To behold the mystery of my 5 year old before me with a holy, awesome wonder; that I would be given such a gift; while chasing away thoughts of losing her.

God's goodness is untarnished by the tragedies of life.  But there is no mandate that we must refuse to acknowledge the pain of tragedy in order to honor God's attributes.  We must try to find our home in the paradox; God is good, life is hard and full of pain.

I miss her.  I long for what might have been.  I am awed by my own daughter's life on this earth.  I must feel it all.  I will feel it all.  To silence pieces of my heart in order to have peace would be the greatest betrayal of all.